Tending To Life, A Gardener’s Approach

I spent Sunday morning weeding my garden. Though the garden is relatively small, it took close to two hours to fully de-weed and groom the space so my vegetable plants have their ideal room to grow. As sweat rolled down my back, I relished in the physical exertion of the work and started to think how similar Life is to a garden.

Aspects of Life — relationships, business, spirituality, personal mindset — are like a garden, ripe with potential to bloom into something spectacular. All are essential parts of a healthy livelihood.

As with a garden, though there may be prospect of future blossoms and delicious produce, the probability for weeds to also take root. Sometimes we allow those weeds into our lives, whether they be in the form of misguided advice, distrustful people, personal faults, or any other negative force. If we are not careful, those weeds may begin to overtake what once was a thriving and happy space.

For too long I mistook those weeds as indicators of something being wrong in my Life. It has taken me time to see the weeds for what they truly are though: opportunities to show how much I truly care for the beautiful parts of my life. Weeds, just like negativity in life, are going to grow. With hard work, nourishment, and a watchful eye, though, even the most weed-filled garden can be pruned.

Cheers to a more nurturing and caring lifestyle, my friends!

My “Why” For Walking Up To The Starting Line

Everyone has a starting point. They are different for everyone, but we all have one.

My current “starting point” began in December 2019 and took several months to inch my way to that actual starting line.

After attending several get-togethers where my sole focus should have been the festivities of the holiday, I was having a difficult time being unselfish. Unselfish in the sense that my mind was always recirculating to myself. My body. My weight.

Continue reading “My “Why” For Walking Up To The Starting Line”

Thoughts On Loving My Body & Wanting To Be Perfect

I came across the Thought Catalog article “I Love My Body, But I Still Struggle With Wanting To Be Perfect” written by Ginelle Testa yesterday and couldn’t help myself from nodding along with the author’s thoughts on the subject. “Yes! This!” was the repeated phrase in my mind as I hungrily devoured her words. Like Ginelle, I too find myself having contradicting conversations throughout the day at my reflection: “you’re perfect the way you are” to “ugh, why do you look like this?” For someone who likes to say she’s an encourager of the female body and womanhood, I struggle daily to look like the celebrities I see on social media each day. I love my body, but I wrestle constantly with wanting it to be more. To be better. To be perfect.

Body and fat positivity are important to me. I want to practice body positivity when thinking about my body. I want to celebrate myself as I am — fat rolls, cellulite, stretch marks, and all. I follow a number of InstaCelebs who promote this movement; women who flaunt their own perfectly imperfect bodies with pride as to how they work and what they are able to do. Me, I truly care about melding this movement into my own life but wrestle with the concept when I catch a glimpse of a mirror. I compare my body to what I wish it looked like or what it once was. However, I appreciate Ginelle’s statement that “rewiring my brain is going to take a lifetime.”

I still find myself wanting my body to be different. Three weeks ago I received information on my health which answered a multitude of questions and I have actively been able to change things in my life to start seeing differences in my mental, emotional, and physical health. I have been waking up to hit the gym, and in the mornings I marvel at how strong my body is and all the actions I am able to do — I can walk, bend, jump, lift, etc. Unfortunately I still find myself daydreaming about being a thinner person. Sometimes those daydreams span hours or days of my life, overtaking my happiness and earlier pride. Then I catch the negativity I’m placing on my shoulders and become even harder on myself because I remember my desire to advocate body positivity. This can quickly become a downward spiral.

I know that radical body acceptance is the only way for me. Being the overly rational person that I am, I understand that radical body acceptance is my only path. I must be content with finding peace in the questions: What if my body never changes and this is it? Do I want to spend my life fighting or do I want to grow to accept it? Now, it is okay to want to make changes to my self-care, but I also realize that radical acceptance is my only choice for real happiness. I need to accept and be content with who I am and what I look like presently… for a content and happy future.

Weight loss is completely ineffective. Oh, how this statement stings. Five years ago I dropped 60 pounds and had 21% body fat. I wore a Small in tops and a size 6 in pants — and never had to try clothing on prior to buying because I could make anything work.  But was I happy? No. I still saw issues with the skin on my neck, the slack in my arms, and the cellulite on my thighs. And I believed my looks correlated with my happiness in all other aspects of my life. If I was feeling down on my appearance, my self-confidence tumbled as well. I grew dependent on others’ compliments to raise my head. I lost myself at the gym and in unhealthy diets and by acting materialistic. I was not the type of person I yearned to be.

Today, I’ve gained that weight back and I am as unhappy with my body as I was when I was thin. However, I am the happiest I have ever been in all other areas of my life. How can this be? It is actually pretty simple. Weight loss is an ineffective option when it comes to my happiness. I may not always feel confident in how I look, but I have the capacity to square my shoulders and keep my chin held high because I know my strengths lie elsewhere. Now my focus is on setting goals and maintaining healthy habits rather than try to force change.

Diet culture also pummels me with messages. “Despite the fact that weight loss doesn’t work, diet culture is constantly berating me about how I should be smaller.” Ginelle, girl, #yasss. It is so difficult to continuously stay focused on finding happiness in my present when all of social media I am told I am unimportant and unworthy due to my size. Scrolling through posts of thin, exotic women turns my heart green with envy and I begin dreaming of a different body for myself. I am exhausted with this constant barrage of diet culture.

Comparing myself to others gets me in trouble. As with any other woman in the world, I find my mind comparing myself to my skinny friends quite easily. I am aware how I hide myself in photos, not wanting to leave any evidence for others to judge me next to my thinner friends. On days I know I am meeting up with someone, I can sometimes find myself sobbing into a pile of clothes I have tried on and taken off. Once I regain my dignity, I choose the baggiest option… and still frown at the mirror. It is a tiring game to feel as if you never measure up to the girl next to you.

It is inspiring to see girls of my size carry their weight gracefully though. I admire them and their beauty. I have to remember that the world is filled with people of all shapes and sizes, and that thought pushes me to sometimes try new outfits. Some are going to work with my present body and some are not. On my “good days” of body acceptance, I grasp at those outfits which make me feel empowered and beautiful like my body-counterparts and lift my head high. There is no reason I cannot strut like anyone else!

Also comparing myself to where I used to be makes me upset. It is sad how often I compare my present self to my old self. I found measurements a few months back that I took in 2014. The differences were outrageous. I felt gross. I felt lazy. I felt unworthy. Then I remember the lifestyle I led which drove me to my old self. I was a gym rat, working my body to exhaustion and living on a handful of daily calories. My body was thin but it was not healthy. Today, I may not be as healthy as I would like to be, but I am actively working to change that. Most days I know that I am indeed a lovable and worthwhile woman.

Logically I know I’m good enough. Just as Ginelle shares her ups and downs, my own roller-coaster outlook on body acceptance is similar to hers: I know I’m good enough just as I am. My logical mind knows this. I have gone through the pain of having people tell me that I was not good enough, that I was not worthy, that I was not lovable. I have battled those thoughts and gained wisdom and resources to combat them. Yet, I am human and I am going to fail from time to time. When it comes to my body, I may not always think logically and instead allow my emotions to hijack my thoughts. But in the end, I am thankful for a fully-functioning body that gets me to where I need to go and can perform the actions I need it to do.

I may always have a part of me that desires change. Truth be told, I am never going to be a perfect body-positive advocate, friends. I continue to workout and eat healthier for the very simple reason of losing fat. I will keep watching movies with beautiful celebrities and feel that twinge of guilt that I am not good enough. I have accepted I will never get back to my 2014 weight, and that is because I do not plan to ever return to my unhealthy lifestyle. I’m never going to be 100% okay with the way I look and I am okay with this because…

I’m only human — my mixed feelings are natural. As Ginelle admits, I realize this post was a bit of a whirlwind. Can you guess why? My thoughts and feelings on this topic ARE a whirlwind! I am human. I have “feelings, thoughts, and desires that are all over the map.” And most importantly, these feelings, thoughts, and desires are. completely. normal.

Ultimately, I’m going to keep feeding acceptance in my mind and life. Yeah, I’m going to keep having exasperated episodes when I look in the mirror, and I’ll still scroll through Instagram with guilt, and I may find myself researching the latest fad diet. But I will also continue to allow myself happiness for my personal victories and pride in my body’s performance. I am going to encourage myself with thoughts that center around acceptance of who I am. I’m going to celebrate my body — rolls, marks, cellulite, and all. I want to expel body positivity to my girlfriends, my family, and my future daughters.

So it only makes sense that I start with my own.

Thanks for joining me on this ride today, friends,

What’s Your “Word” For 2019?

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? I have not been a big fan of resolutions in the past simply because they seem to have a poor stigma surrounding them. Resolutions seem to have become the butt of jokes, a frustration for gym rats, and stress-inducers for those who set them. For awhile I aimed to set goals rather than resolutions. My thought process behind this decision was completely based on definitions. Resolutions are decisions to do or not do things, whereas goals are focused ambitions to achieve a desired result.

Over the last few years, I made goals for myself at the beginning of each year. These goals provided direction, and also allowed me to plan and prepare to take realistic actions for my desired outcomes. Sometimes I realigned my goals throughout the year to better serve my changing lifestyle. Other times I quit on my goals or rolled them over to the next year. There were even a few goals I proudly achieved.

For 2019, I neither set resolutions or goals. Instead, I’ve chosen a single word to bring me guidance throughout the year. It took me some time to narrow down what my one word should be though…

I was talking with a few of my girlfriends this past week on their New Year’s resolutions. Instead of resolving to change or setting goals, each of them had instead chosen a single word to use as guidance for the upcoming year. One had chosen “present” to remind her to be happy with her current place in life and to keep her grounded when thoughts of her past or future may surface. The other chose “content”. She has struggled with finding contentment in her life, either rushing or attempting to persuade circumstances to fit what she feels is best. This ultimately adds more stress to her life, so she has aimed to focus on finding the silver-linings in the here-and-now.

I had heard the idea of One Word before. There’s actually a book called My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen which goes in depth on how to choose your word. (I’ve never read the book, but have known a few people who have.) The authors state that choosing your Word is a year-changing process. This process “provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.”

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also begins her years choosing a single word to bring her guidance. In a LinkedIn post on January 1st, Gates explained that this tradition “encapsulates her aspirations for the year ahead.” She focused 2016 around the word “gentle” which helped her fight perfectionism, and 2017’s “spacious” prompted her to make room for the things in life that truly matter. She is doubling on the word “grace” for 2019 as it served her well in 2018.

I love the concept that one Word can set a theme for the year and be a constant reminder to focus on creating positive change in your life.

Looking back, I can roll each year into one word. In 2017 my year was focused on “release.” I released responsibilities, people, and stress from my environment in order to thrive (and in a few circumstances simply survive.) In 2018, “gratitude” was the resounding theme. I was grateful for a new career path and a loving husband and a first home. I was grateful for Life shining bright and for the releases of 2017 to finally make sense.

As I walk into 2019 I have been finding difficulty in narrowing the next twelve months into a single word though. The reason I didn’t make any goals was because I hadn’t considered what they may be — in all honesty, I am very content with my life as it is today and am not sure what more I could aim to achieve.

I considered “contentment” along the lines of my friend. Remaining content can sometimes be a challenge for a long period of time and perhaps that could be more 2019 focus.

I also thought I could narrow my theme to one of the goals I set back on my birthday. However, the whole point of One Word is to encompass a number of aspirations for my future.

I thought some more.

And some more.

I considered “wine”… to which my friends shook their heads and laughed.

So I thought ever harder.

And I realized that as I tried to figure out my intentions for 2019, my Word was right in front of me:

Intention.

Though I am living in a very happy, content bubble at the moment, I acknowledge that much of my life is lived in habit. Each part of my life (whether it be activities, things, people, etc.) has a sort of control over me and I see now I need to take the reigns. Intentionally.

I want to speak intentionally. I want to make intentional decisions. I want to intentionally put my life into action.

Gone are the days where I make significant number of choices simply because. Moving forward, I yearn to live with intention — living with more purpose on purpose. I don’t want to continue getting caught up in the outside noise of Life. You know, the busyness of everyday habits or the control of social media and other’s perceptions. Areas that may quickly spiral out of control if left unhindered and unchecked.

Instead, I want to take every step in my life as a well-thought, well-planned, and well-executed decision. To move my happiness and contentment of Life into the greater plane of joy.

I am aiming towards sustainable joy.

Thus I choose to live with intention.

Have you considered a Word of the Year for yourself? If so, what did you choose for 2019 and why? And if this little blurb made you think about a Word, what are you thinking to focus on in the new year? 

Until next time, friends,

2018 In Reflection

My Facebook Year in Review has officially chosen the most liked pictures and created a little video for me to reflect on 2018 so guess what else that means? It is the time for my own reflections as well! The fifty degree weather, lack of snow, and limited holiday decor at our home are leaving me a bit on the Grinch-side. However, I am looking forward to 2019 and feel so incredibly blessed to have had all the experiences of 2018.

In tradition of the past few years, 2018 is being hailed as the newest Worst Year of All Worst Years. I didn’t get the message though. 2018 was by far my best year yet. 2019 has a lot to live up to when I look back at this past year, but I am so excited for what the future has in store.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Before welcoming the New Year, I want to take a second and be grateful for all this year has given to me.

January: I knew coming into 2018 my life would be different by the time the ball dropped at its end. In January I was busily planning G’s and my wedding and prepping to become a wife. I had no idea what all was in store, so I took the year one day at a time. I was able to be a part of coordinating one of my best friend’s weddings after the new year celebrations, as well as a few holiday parties at the Winery. Then at the end of January I made a life-changing decision. I left my career path in the wine and event industry to join the finance department of a nonprofit. The transition was huge, and it ultimately placed me back on track of what my degree is focused. I miss the wine industry but am content with this decision — it feels good to know my job helps to make a difference in my community.

February & March: Luckily I am fortunate to continue event planning through my volunteer work. For the fourth year, I was on the Pink Tie Ball Committee. This year’s gala raised over $24,000 in funds used for research and awareness of breast cancer. Plus, one of my goals for 2018 was to strengthen my friendships and grow my Tribes. I am blessed to have grown even closer to this group of Pink Ladies and know I have an army of support behind me moving into 2019.

I also was invited to assist in planning my church’s first IF:Gathering event. This women’s retreat took place in March and allowed me to meet more women in my church and grow those relations as well. In addition to my volunteer work, I continued to play in the YMCA volleyball league and tried out a few different types of yoga classes. As Spring rolled in, I was staying active in the community, my relationships, and wedding planning.

April: Every month seemed to gain more momentum as we neared our wedding date. April brought a slew of bridal showers and traveling to visit family members, scheduling vendors, and purchasing wedding items. G and I had to block off weekends simply to keep our sanity. We attended House’s annual Spring Retreat with twenty of our friends over a long weekend. Then the last weekend of the month, the Pink Ladies and I held a slumber party in remembrance of our dear friend Denise. 2018 marked two years since her passing, and the anniversary of April 19th remains painful. Spending time with one another always helps us, so we took a break from our hectic schedules in order to be together.

May: By the time I flipped to May on the calendar, most of the wedding plans had been secured. Perhaps we had a project here or there, but overall G and I took the month of May to complete our marriage counseling, move him into my apartment, and enjoy the remainder of our engagement. Over Memorial Day weekend, we went camping for a joint bachelor/bachelorette weekend. G and the guys did some “manly stuff” while my girls and I jumped into a limo for a wine tasting tour. It was the perfect way to wrap-up our wedding preparation with our closest friends.

June: June was an overall unremarkable month. 😉

Just kidding…

June was the month I stumbled to an altar in front of my loved ones and locked down the best man in the world. The accumulation of the entire first half of 2018 came to a peak on June 16, 2018 when I married G. Our wedding remains the pinnacle of this year.

Following the wedding, we escaped to Tennessee for our honeymoon and then returned home to begin our married lives together.

July: As G and I started our journey as newlyweds, I shifted the focus of Uncorking Peonies from a wedblog to a Lifestyle blog. We began house hunting and welcomed our first nephew into the family. Life was perfect our first month as husband and wife.

August: I witnessed one of my best friends marry the love of her life on August 18, 2018. I will never forget watching the beautiful bride glow with happiness throughout the entire day.

G left his job in August after being sought by another company. He has been enjoying his new position since the change, and is also being sent to school to receive his Journeyman in machining. Though this switch threw a wrench into our schedules, we have become accustomed to his late workdays and take advantage of any time we have together. I am excited to see where he goes from here and find myself in awe of the man I married every single day — he is the most hardworking and dedicated partner.

September & October: After a few months of horrific house hunting adventures, G and I became homeowners in September! I said goodbye to city-living and my cute little apartment, packing up my bags to move to our fixer-upper. Since September we have redone the electric throughout the house, demolished a wall, replaced all our external doors, repainted and refloored the first level, and finished quite a few do-it-yourself projects. We are currently in the midst of gutting and remodeling our one and only bathroom this week as well. (Wish us luck! Eek…)

Besides all our house renovations, G and I also ventured over to Iowa to meet our handsome nephew for the first time. It was a fun weekend spent loving on little Z, exploring the area, and laughing with family. When we returned, I learned my work had nominated me to be a student in a leadership institute instructed by our State’s Community Action foundation. This was a pleasant surprise as the institute takes only 30 students a year across the state. I have had two classes thus far, and will graduate with a leadership certification in July 2019.

November & December: All in all, the last couple of months have been relatively quiet for me. This is a welcome relief from the beginning of 2018 though. I find myself with a lot of free time in the evenings. During that free time, I am busily planning Pink Tie Ball 2019, crafting, writing consistently on Uncorking Peonies, playing YMCA volleyball, and hanging out with my husband, family, and friends. I love not having every second of my day scheduled anymore. I love being able to do more of what I have passions to do. And I love the Life I’ll be rolling into 2019.

Life has never been better.

Happy New Years, my friends,